By Patrick Cockburn in Arbil
Published: 13 July 2007
Scrambling to shore up crumbling support for the war in Iraq, President George Bush released a report yesterday claiming sufficient political and military progress to justify the presence of 170,000 US troops in the country.
President Bush said he still believed victory in Iraq was possible.
“Those who believe that the battle in Iraq is lost will likely point to the unsatisfactory performance on some of the political benchmarks,” he said.
“Those who believe the battle in Iraq can and must be won see the satisfactory performance on several of the security benchmarks as a cause of optimism.” He added it was too early to say if his new strategy in Iraq was working.
But in Iraq as in the US there is a sense that Washington is playing its last cards. “I assume the US is going to start pulling out because 70 per cent of Americans and Congress want the troops to come home,” Mahmoud Othman, a veteran Iraqi politician, said. “The Americans are defeated. They haven’t achieved any of their aims.”
The report itself admits to a sense in Iraq that the US, one way or another, is on the way out more than four years after its invasion in 2003.
It says that political reconciliation in Iraq is being hampered by “increasing concern among Iraqi political leaders that the United States may not have a long-term commitment to Iraq”.
The White House yesterday sought to suggest possible change for the better in Iraq by saying that there had been satisfactory progress on eight of the 18 goals set by Congress. Unsatisfactory progress is reported on six, unsatisfactory but with some progress on two and “too early to assess” on a further two.
The picture it hopes to give – and this has been uncritically reported by the US media – is of a mixture of progress and frustration in Iraq.
The wholly misleading suggestion is that the war could go either way. In reality the six failures are on issues critical to the survival of Iraq while the eight successes are on largely trivial matters.
Thus unsatisfactory progress is reported on “the Iraqi security forces even handedly enforcing the law” and on the number of Iraqi units willing to fight independently of the Americans. This means that there is no Iraqi national army but one consisting of Kurds, Shia and Sunni who will never act against their own communities. Despite three years of training, the Iraqi security forces cannot defend the government.
Set against these vitally important failures are almost ludicrously trivial or meaningless successes. For instance, “the rights of minority political parties are being defended” but these groups have no political influence. The alliance of Shia religious and Kurdish nationalist parties that make up the government is not keen to share power with anybody. This is scarcely surprising since they triumphantly won the election in 2005.